June 17, 2020
Dear University of Oregon students,
This has been quite a term! For many, many reasons, it wasn’t easy, but you made it. I am profoundly proud of each one of you for the way you responded in the face of unprecedented adversity and a rapidly changing and uncertain world. For those who are not graduating this weekend, we are excited about welcoming you back in Eugene in the fall. Today I am writing about COVID-19 and the things we are doing and planning to do to make sure we can resume on-campus operations safely and responsibly.
Your health and safety – and the health and safety of the entire University of Oregon community – is our top priority. Thankfully, Eugene and Lane County, which have entered Phase 2 of the state’s reopening process, flattened the curve early, and the region enjoys a low number of COVID-19 cases relative to other parts of Oregon and the rest of the nation. We are developing plans for in-person instruction in Portland and hope we are able to welcome students back to UO in Portland as well. The situation could obviously change, we have contingency plans if it does, but we anticipate beginning classes in person on September 29.
Importantly, the University of Oregon is not making its plans in a vacuum. The UO is working closely with local, state, and federal health officials to ensure that our plans are fully coordinated with Oregon’s broader resumption strategy and incorporate the most up-to-date guidance and best practices from public health professionals. We are also in daily conversations with other universities, particularly those on the West Coast that share our values of putting student welfare first.
In some cases, we are still working out specific plans, but here’s what I can tell you about what the fall term will look like at the UO:
- The majority of our classes will be offered in person. As of today, we estimate that over 70 percent of all classes will be entirely in person or have significant in-person components.
- In-person classes will never have more than 50 students and many will have fewer. This is so we can provide for physical distancing. Over the past several months we have done analysis of our classrooms and have made adjustments to our class schedule and our classroom layouts to accommodate this goal.
- Classes with more than 50 people will either be remote or hybrid, meaning the lectures may be delivered online with smaller discussions sessions in person. All classes will have meaningful opportunities for interaction between students and faculty members.
- For classes that will be entirely online, we are working hard to enhance the curriculum, interactivity, digital platform, and overall student experience. If you take a fully online class, we want it to be of the same quality that you would experience in person.
- We anticipate ending in-person classes after Week 9, just before Thanksgiving. Week 10 will be fully remote as will your final examinations. This will give you the option of leaving the campus for the holiday and not having to return for only a couple of weeks. It will cut down on travel expenses and help you avoid extra time on planes, buses, and trains. Of course, our residence halls and dining options will be open throughout this period for those who need them.
- If you feel that you cannot or do not want to take courses in person, our advisors will help you devise schedules to enable you to make progress toward your degree goals with an entirely remote or online schedule. This year we will add at least 150 well-prepared online classes to our schedule to make this possible.
Face Coverings and Common Spaces
- Face coverings will be required in class, in campus buildings, and in other non-personal spaces. This is based on guidance from health officials to reduce the spread of COVID-19 from coughs, sneezes, or talking. We’ll have free face coverings (with appropriate University of Oregon logos!) available or you can wear your own.
- Common spaces and commonly touched surfaces in university buildings will receive enhanced cleaning. Hand sanitizer and cleaning materials will be readily available in close proximity to your classrooms and throughout our residence halls.
Testing and Contact Tracing
- The UO will run a state-of-the-art COVID-19 testing program that will allow us to process thousands of tests per week, should that number be needed. This is being led by our top faculty researchers in biology, genomics, prevention science, data science, and more. If you need to be tested, we’ll be able to do it quickly.
- Our faculty and researchers are also assisting in Lane County Public Health’s efforts to create a robust contact-tracing program to track the spread of COVID-19, which is important to helping keep our campus and the surrounding community safe.
- If you or one of your classmates becomes ill or tests positive for COVID-19, you will not be on your own! We have resources to support you as you self-isolate.
On-campus Housing and Dining
- We are committed to meeting and in many cases exceeding all of the standards and guidance of the Oregon Health Authority for our residence halls. No students will live in triples in our residence halls. We are reducing density and making plans for extra cleaning, particularly in shared bathrooms. We are also setting aside entire sections of our residence halls for isolation if that should become necessary. Please continue to check back at UO Housing for the latest information.
- Dining halls will be open for students, but with limited seating. They will operate under all appropriate food safety guidelines from local health authorities.
Campus Life and Sports
- Libraries will be open to university patrons only – essentially students, faculty, and staff – though we will likely have to limit the number of people allowed into a library at any given time to meet physical distancing guidelines. Similarly, the EMU, the Student Recreation Center, and other facilities will be open with appropriate physical distancing.
- We want to return to a robust set of student life activities – clubs, events, club sports, Greek life, and more. We will require appropriate physical distancing and group size limits set by state and local health officials.
- The outlook for large sporting events – such as football games – is continuing to develop. The health and safety of our student-athletes and the broader campus community are the biggest factors we must consider. I do think it is unlikely that we’ll be able to pack Autzen Stadium this fall like we normally would, but the final decision on our game-day experience will be dictated by state and local health authorities. We’ll provide details as soon as they’re available.
- Additional financial assistance will be available if you or your family have experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19. Students who are eligible to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are urged to apply online to request CARES Act funds.
I am sure you have many more questions. As the situation changes or as guidance is updated by state and local officials, the UO will update our plans. We will communicate with you throughout the summer as we know more, so please keep an eye on your email inbox. You can also regularly check Return to Campus, which is frequently updated with the latest information and has links to ways you can reach out with questions or concerns. Don’t hesitate to reach out, we want to hear from you.
Finally, I want to thank you all for your patience, flexibility, and grace. Everyone at the UO is committed to supporting you, safeguarding your health, and ensuring that COVID-19 does not sidetrack your educational goals and progress toward graduation. That commitment is unwavering. I hope you have a healthy, safe, and productive summer. I am really looking forward to seeing you back here in Eugene in the fall.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law